Louisiana to receive $ 101 million from federal infrastructure bill as of Monday | State policy

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Louisiana will receive $ 101 million as the first installment of federal money under the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“If he’s not here Monday, he will be in two weeks,” US Senator Bill Cassidy told The Advocate | The Times-Picayune Thursday.

Cassidy was instrumental in negotiating the bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion spending plan to modernize highways and bridges, improve ports, expand high-speed internet, and work on the country’s long-neglected infrastructure. Louisiana expects to receive more than $ 6 billion from these expenses. But the first batch of funds will go to improving the systems that provide drinking water to communities.

The funding will be used to improve drinking water infrastructure, including replacing lead pipes, removing contaminants, and ensuring rural and underserved communities have clean drinking water. This funding represents fiscal year 2022. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides for additional funding each year until 2026, which means Louisiana can expect to receive similar amounts for water infrastructure during each of the years. next four years.

Louisiana’s infrastructure money comes from $ 7.4 billion that US Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael S. Regan said Thursday afternoon would be distributed. Funding flows through the EPA’s State Revolving Fund programs aimed at aging U.S. water infrastructure and addressing lead in drinking water as well as contamination by per- and poly- substances. fluoroalkylated (PFAS).

Almost every local official Cassidy spoke to across the state has asked for help with the failing pipes, pumps and towers that provide clean drinking water to homes and businesses.

And it’s not just the small towns and parishes, although some of those systems are on the verge of collapsing, Cassidy said the money will also help New Orleans have less boil-water notice. water before drinking it and Shreveport can fix pipes that broke during the February frost.

“Statewide, local authorities are prioritizing investments in drinking water. Often times their tax base can’t support the repairs that need to be done, ”Cassidy said. “These tax dollars from the federal government can make these repairs, can help these cities, can provide clean water.”

Some communities cannot afford expensive solutions and others are without a tax base as people and businesses move elsewhere, Cassidy said. About half of the IIJA’s money will come in the form of grants and the other half will be low-interest loans that will be repaid to a revolving fund that can be used to help other communities in the future.

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“This puts it within the reach of many communities,” Cassidy added, noting that the alternative is for state taxpayers to step in to pay for repairs when a local system goes down, as has happened. passed to St. Joseph when lead was found in the water of a town of less than a thousand inhabitants.

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Louisiana municipalities and parishes are struggling to repair and modernize drinking water systems that were built over half a century ago for more than half of the state. About one in five in 1,300 systems do not meet standards set by the Louisiana Department of Health and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

The state has needs of around $ 4 billion, said state representative Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, the Houma Republican who co-chairs the Water Selection Commission. The commission earlier this week recommended that 29 water infrastructure projects receive $ 29 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was passed in March. The Legislature approved the recommendations on Wednesday.

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An additional $ 300 million is available under the American Rescue Plan Act, but nearly 550 local water supply systems have applied, asking for more than $ 1 billion in funding.

“Communities across the state drink and bathe in brown water,” Zeringue said Thursday. “It will definitely improve our ability to solve some of these water problems.”

The infrastructure legislation, which Cassidy helped draft, received final approval on November 6 from the United States House and in August from the United States Senate. Only Democratic Representative of the United States, Troy Carter of New Orleans, joined Cassidy, a Republican from Baton Rouge, in supporting the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The rest of the Louisiana congressional delegation opposed the bipartisan measure. US Senator John N. Kennedy of Madisonville voted “no”, as did Republican US Representative Steve Scalise of Jefferson; Clay Higgins, of Lafayette; Garret Graves, of Baton Rouge; Julia Letlow, of Start; and Michael Johnson, of Bossier City.

Kennedy spokeswoman Jess Andrews said on Friday the senator supported money for water projects when it was part of a separate bill, which was later added to the investment law and employment in infrastructure. But because of some of the other provisions of the law, Kennedy voted against the IIJA.

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